Mountain Patrol: Kekelixi

Rated NR 2006

By their nature, conservationist melodramas are tough to put over: Unless you torture science Roland Emmerich-style, the concrete concerns are long-term (save the water, the whales, or the woods), and the principles, vacuum-packed by narrative pressure, can easily veer off into sanctimonious terrain. This 2004 Chinese adventure saga, which takes on the poaching of the endangered Tibetan antelope -- and the volunteer force that struggled to stop it -- is a film of startling textural power. Nothing in the last decade -- not even Terrence Malick's The New World -- has displayed such a ferocious intimacy with extreme landscape. But for all of its well-schooled orthodoxy and visual splendor, Lu Chuan's epic remains somewhat off-kilter: The passionate wartime camaraderie and doomed sense of martyrdom seem misplaced, and the real villains -- the government that provides the west-China populace few other options for sustenance, and the international consumers who pony up for pelts -- are left unaddressed.

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